Father Józef Zuziak SDS (1934-2021)
Fr. Jozef Zuziak was born on January 17, 1934 in Lipowa near Żywiec to the farming family of Wojciech and Aniela. He was baptized at his home parish of St. Bartholomew, and given the name of Jozef Roman. In 1940 his parents with their five children have been resettled to the Chelm area, and then moved to Krakow. In 1949 they returned to Lipowa where Jozef graduated from the primary school, and in 1953 from the junior high school in Zywiec. Upon passing his final exams he applied for admission to the Society of the Divine Savior. After spending a year in the novitiate formation, he moved to abandon it and instead began studying at the Academy of Agriculture in Krakow (Faculty of Surveys and Hydro Melioration). This in turn has been interrupted by him being drafted for military service at the topographic unit in Komorow. He was discharged in the fall of 1958, and on July 12, 1959 sent a humble request to the Salvatorian Provincial asking for re-admission to the Congregation as a candidate for priesthood.
On August 14, 1959 he entered a novitiate in Bagno near Wroclaw, and on August 15, 1960 took his first vows. In August of 1963 he vowed chastity, poverty and obedience for the rest of his life. On June 28, 1966 in Trzebinia he was ordained as a priest by Bishop Karol Wojtyla.
Throughout 1966 and ‘67 he resided at the religious house in Krakow (located at Lobzowska street) partaking in the Pastoral Year. At that time and in response to the needs of the Congregation for new missionaries, he offered his written declaration of the readiness to be sent to Africa. However, on August 31, 1967 he began his pastoral and catechetical ministry in the parish of St. John the Baptist.
On October 7, 1969 Fr. Jozef arrived in the United States on board of “Stefan Batory” ocean liner, taking up a pastoral ministry for the Polish community and settling in Merrillville, Indiana. From the very beginning his superiors entrusted him with various responsibilities for the Merrillville community as a treasurer, rector superior or vice-superior. Both, the material and pastoral development of the Salvatorian establishment can be assigned to his credit to a great degree. Among many of his initiatives it should be mentioned the erection of the church, housing the Millennium Panorama and the unique image of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Today the church is known as a Marian Shrine. He was also responsible for organizing first Polish pilgrimages from Chicago to Merrillville, the event which to this day attracts thousands of participants. His assistance in organizing other Salvatorian establishments it the US was also very significant.
It is hard to overestimate Fr. Zuziak’s numerous merits and contributions to the cause of promoting Polishness among Polish community. His initiatives were not limited to those religious in nature, but also spanned many historical and cultural events. In recognition of his work, on May 19, 2018 the President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, awarded him the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.
His indispensable attribute was his harmonica. He used it to play the religious as well as popular tunes. His performances were often the highlight of the meetings he attended. The listeners were many, amongst them the Pope John Paul II.
Fr. Jozef Zuziak died on July 27, 2021 in Hammond, at the nursing home of the Albertine Sisters. His funeral will take place on July 30 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Merrillville. He will be put to rest at the local cemetery.